William was not a boy to do things in any ordinary way. William liked colour, romance, adventure. Sardines for breakfast or tea eaten with fish knives and forks and bread and butter and good manners were so dull as to be beneath contempt. Sardines cooked in the open over a glorious fire made a matter for the exercise of that imagination which was one of William’s particular gifts.
The Outlaws could be pioneers, gold-diggers, robber chieftains, anything. Yet William, never satisfied till he had attained perfection, thought that there must be yet another and more exciting rôle to play.
- Number: 8.10
- Published: 1927 (1926 in magazine form) – not to be confused with the 1937 story, 19.3, of the same name
- Book: William in Trouble
- Synopsis: The Outlaws try to save Ethel from forced marriage.
William’s mistake in this story is the same one he made in The Knight at Arms, 2.4, and in The Sunday-School Treat, 6.8, and in William Starts the Holidays, 6.12: mistaking the performance or recitation of fiction for real life.
On this occasion, he hears Ethel saying the words: “I don’t love him at all. I’m being forced to marry him against my will. I have no one to turn to for help. My heart fails me. He presses his suit every day. He is coming this afternoon and my parents will force me to accede to his proposals. Alas, what shall I do?”
Robert had met only yesterday the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life (Robert met the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life on an average once a week).
Obviously, it doesn’t occur to him that she is reading from a (by all appearances, rubbish) book to Mrs Brown (who has lost her glasses). He fervently believes that she is the victim of a fiendish plot, so the Outlaws scheme to intercept the man they suppose to be the fiendish suitor – in fact a perfectly harmless business colleague of Mr Brown’s – and convince him that Ethel has died (“of a failin’ heart”) so that he will abandon the idea of marriage and go home.
It all goes horribly wrong, of course, but in a sadly predictable way.